SSG James Walker, U.S. Army (1966-1991)



The following Reflection represents SSG James Walker’s legacy of their military service from 1966 to 1991. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

Which song do you connect most to your time in Military service? What specific memories does this song bring back for you?:

Detroit City (I Wanna Go Home) by Bobby Bare. 

After AIT in November of 1966, we all just knew we were headed to Vietnam. It was a great surprise when 32 of us came down on orders for Korea. Our first reaction was: “Where the hell is Korea?” Korea in 1966 is not like you see today. The 14 months I spent there turned a boy into a man, with increased responsibility coming as the months trudged by. I spent 3 months in the field giving communications support to the ROK army that were looking for North Korean infiltrators. The song “I Wanna Go Home” became our theme song played in every bar and club we went to. 

The 32 of us that went over together were due to rotate before Christmas of 1967. But a bunch of parents wrote their Congressman about how they didn’t want their kids to leave before Christmas! So, we were extended, so we had to stay for 2 Christmases and 2 New Years. 

On January 19, 1968, 31 North Korean Elite military came across the border to try and behead the South Korean President Park Chung Hee. We were coming back from the clubs before the midnight curfew when shots and explosions were heard in Yongsan. Now, this was highly unusual, and when we got back to Camp Coiner, weapons and ammunition were being issued, and Crypto Equipment was being loaded on the vans. No one really knew at that time what was going on. We were preparing to go to war to defend South Korea. As word reached us that the assassins were killed and things might calm down, North Korea struck again. On January 23, 1968, they captured the US Navy vessel Pueblo with Navy personnel aboard. This was a very stressful time, and we did not know if we were even going to rotate back to the States or not. 

It was finally determined that we had spent our obligation in Korea and were allowed to rotate out of Korea on January 27, 1968. Tensions were still high, and we cleared the post with our weapons and 300 rounds of ammunition on us. The last thing we did before boarding the plane was give our weapons and ammunition to our platoon sergeant. The only time in my 20 year career that I went through the clearance process fully armed.

During those years, the Army forced you to grow up. That was my first permanent duty assignment of a 20 year career that took me to 26 countries for permanent and temporary duty assignments.

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Tags: Detroit City (I Wanna Go Home) by Bobby Bare., Military Memories of our Runner-Ups, South Korean President Park Chung Hee, US Navy vessel Pueblo


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